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315/05/2011 Mileage 43723
Still working on the car for the MOT. After the work on the chassis, I noticed the front lights were out of alignment and wired up incorrectly. I sorted these and adjusted as best I can. In addition I fitted the passenger seat back in and adusted the clutch cable. The gear changes are much smoother as the clutch plates are now fully releasing, but this has made the thrust bearing noisy. A mental note has been made that this needs changing when the engine is next removed. I won't fit the rear brake disks before the MOT, so I adjusted the drums so the brake pedal is really firm when pressed. I hope this goes some way to eliminating most of the problems on test day. Today (Sunday) I used the car for a visit to my parents. This is a round trip of 150 miles. Bubba performed very well, but driving at 60mph on a dual carriageway is very noisy and the engine lacks power up the hills. This seems to be a combination of poor engine tuning and the large rear wheels which raise the engine gearing a little too high. This is the longest trip I have done in the car so I was pleased that it got me there and back without any drama. The car is getting better with each little update.
The carburettor jets arrived today. I was going to renovate the carb, but on examination the bolts to remove the carb are obscured which would mean a total strip down of the inlet manifold. A change of plan was called for, so I took off the top of the carb, cleaned the float chamber and just replaced all the jets with ones recommended for a 1600cc engine. The ones I removed were all the same size, apart from the air correction jets. The new sizes were as follows:-
Primary Main 1.37mm Primary Air 1.65mm Primary Idle 0.45mm Secondary Main 1.40mm Secondary Air 1.60mm Secondary Idle 0.50mm
I took the car out for a drive and what a transformation, lots more power and no stutter on acceleration. I can now drive the car in 4th gear through town rather than changing to 3rd and got the car up to 70mph easily with plenty more in reserve. Not bad for £20 worth of carb jets and 1/2 hour of work. I expect the fuel consumption to be much improved which will recover the cost in a few weeks. I'll take another look at the plugs in a few miles to see if they have gone from sooty black to brown, but I know already that this is much closer to the correct setting just by the feel of the car.
During the last few weeks the baja bug has been back at the Beetle Barn having a few things corrected.The two captive nuts have been rectified and a small amount of rewelding done (All free of charge). I have also managed to get a pair of Recaro seats from a Sierra Cosworth on ebay. These are a better size than the Ford seats currently fitted which are a little wide and high.Tonight I have ordered some seat rails, so these will be fitted in the next few weeks. Other parts ordered include the rear disk brake conversion and a set of carburettor jets for the engine. Hopefully this will go some way to cure the air fuel mixture problems as the engine runs very rich. MOT is due on May 24th. I would like at least to get the rear brake conversion and the passenger seat fitted done before them.
I have spent all this week under the car cleaning, wire brushing and painting. I now have the car painted in red oxide rust preventer and now just need to overcoat it in black hammerite and waxoil it. I managed to change all the floor bolts and plates for stainless steel items except for two as the captive nuts seem to be turning in the heater channel. Its a shame that I couldn't do a perfect job, but this is never the way on an old car. It shouldn't be a problem as these bolts are unlikely to need to be undone for many years.
Bubba is now back from the Beetle Barn and I am very happy with the work. The complete floor and heater channels have been replaced and the rear and front arches have been repaired. There is now nowhere on the lower half of the car that needs any attention, just a few rust spots further up that need sanding an painting, but nothing too serious that I cannot do with some emery paper and a tin of paint.
I am particularly happy with the rear wheel arch repairs as the repair is almost invisible. I think the guys at the Beetle Barn really know their stuff. On the drive home I did notice that the handling of the car has been improved. The cornering is much better which is something I didn't expect. The chassis and body must have been so rusty that the body was flexing. I now need to paint the underside of the car and waxoil it. In addition I will swap all the bolts for stainless steel items to ensure I dont have any problems in the future.
Work is continuing at the Beetle Barn and the costs are rising. It looks like the chassis needs new floorpans and some work on the rear inner arches.
The wings are off and the heater channels have been removed. It looks like the previous owner did a good job of fibreglassing all the bad areas for the MOT. I may as well get the whole lot done as it will save me from removing the body again next year. The body is due to come off next week for the chassis work. as with any job like this it looks worse before it gets better!
Bubba has now been delivered to the Beetle Barn for replacement of the heater channels. Hopefully I can pick it up next weekend. Whilst awaiting its return I have ordered a complete set of stainless floorpan bolts and plates and also a set of stainless wing bolts. When the car is returned I shall fit these as soon as possible with some anti seize grease. The plan is to remove the body next year and get the chassis completely renovated. Doing this preliminary work this year will make the job much easier when the time comes.
I have now had a quote from the Beetle Barn and next weekend Bubba is in for intensive surgery on both heater channels and a little work on the chassis. I hope to have the work completed in about a week so I can get on with the other work that is needed.
I have been driving the car at weekends for the past few weeks and it is now time to start making progress on the car again. The steering is now starting to ease up a little, so hopefully it will soon be back to normal. Today I took a trip up to the Beetle Barn in St Ives (Cambridge) as its not too far from me. The place is a little Aladdins cave with many interesting items and vehicles in the workshop. After a long chat with the owner I am hoping for a favourable quite for replacement of both heater channels when he has priced up the panels. I am quite concerned about the MOT as even though it is several months away I dont want the car off the road for too long in the summer. Any mechanical work is fairly straight forward for me, but rusty bodywork takes too long to fix which is time I don't really have. The owner of the Beetle Barn also had a rear disk brake conversion for sale, but I forgot to check if it was 5 stud or 4. Hopefully at my next visit I can also cross this off the to do list. He also put me in touch with a local rolling road tuner.
Bubba is now safely in the garage for the winter. With the car standing on the drive I could see all my hard work tuning to rust before my eyes. I was suprised to see how much room there was in the garage around the car and this gives me the thought that there may be a few jobs carried out on it in the garage in the next few months. I am particularly interested in a rear disk conversion and boxing out behind the rear seats with sound proofing.
Some good weather today so I was able to reassemble the Baja and get her back on the road. I bled the brakes, fitted the 10mm spacers and refitted the petrol tank. I spent a few minutes adjusting the petrol sender float as it was a good opportunity to add an exact amount of fuel and see what the gauge read. I adjusted it by bending the arm so that there was 1 gallon of fuel left when the gauge was mid way in the red.
It is the first real test drive that I have had with the new seats and all the modifiations I had done recently and I must say the car has been transfomed. Before I wasn't confident to throw it into corners, but with the new seat support and the front suspension now set up correctly it really gives much more confidence. The only thing I am not happy with is that the steering is very tight. There is no play, but it's very stiff. I adjusted the steering box a little, but it was still tight. I have fitted new ball joints all over the steering, so I will wait a while to see if things ease up, but I don't think its anything too serious.
After a few days of reassembly I managed to get the disk brake conversion assembled. I had to buy some new shock absorbers and a few other nuts and bolts, but it all went together smoothly apart from one issue. Due to the large calipers the wheels no longer fit! I will need to space the wheels out about 10mm, so I shall order the wheel spacers and bolts as soon as I can. I still need to bleed the brakes, fit the petrol tank, recheck all the bolts and repaint some of the red bits in waxoil. This shouldn't take too long before the job is done.
I managed to repair most of the holes in the torsion bar. It looks a mess as some of the previous repairs are very rough, but it is better than when I took it off and much cleaner. There was one very large hole, but I made up a plate and welded it in flush with the surface and after I had grond the welds down it was hard to see the repair. I have also managed to reassemble it to the car and get both knuckle and disk assemblies attached. I still need to attach the calipers, steering box and bleed the brakes, but have made good progress cleaning the final bits ready for reassembly. If I get some on Sunday I should have most of the car back together. I hope tomorrow to have my mercedes finally sold so this may tie up some of the day picking the new owner up from the station and sorting the paperwork.
Still working on the front suspension and have found some serious holes in the torsion beam. It initially looked good, but after a little poking around with a screwdriver it seems there are some very large areas that need patching. I have made as start, but there is plenty of work to keep me going. Its all good welding practice. The other parts are scrubbing up really good and look even better when waxoiled.
I'm making slow progress on renovating the torsion bars and steering box. I have been tied up with a few other things lately. Most of the nuts and bolts have arrived so there shouldn't be too many hold ups. The chassis front is now oxide primed and ready for reassembly. I'm still short of some bolts for the steering box, but I may have some cap screws which are high tensile that may do. Its just a case of finding them!
The final ball joint removal proved really tough and I had to resort to cutting an chiselling tiny pieces of the joint away until it decided to let go. The new one was installed quite easily and I spent the rest of the night scraping and cleaning various parts. The next few nights will be more of the same then some primer and waxoil. The weekend should see some of the the parts back on the car. It is quite tough work, but very rewarding when you see some of these old parts looking almost new.
Changing the ball joints has turned out to be a massive task! My friends press was not really big enough to push out the joints, so I took a two pronged approach. First I located a large fly press at work and asked if I could use it, secondly I ordered a ball joint extraction set from eBay. It arrived tonight and it was a sort of large "G" clamp affair with a lot of adaptors. Using this and a lot of brute force, a bit of angle grinding and cold chiseling I managed to remove and replace 3 of the joints so may not need to use the press at work at all. They were rusted in solid. As each of the arms is around £42 each the tool has already paid for itself even if I cannot get the last one out and have to replace it. I made some progress on the last arm and have angle ground out the ball and removed the bearing surface. Fortunately the outer case is not hard so a little hacksawing may get this out as well. By the time I had worked on the first three I was sweating like a fat chef and very tired. I shall attempt the last one tomorrow night.
Today saw some more work on the front suspension. After stripping down both sides to the trailing arms it seemed a little silly not to remove and clean up the torsion bar assembly. I was lucky that all the bolts seemed to come off fairly easily with only a couple requiring the grinder. I was thinking of replacing the torsion assembly with a new one, but on inspection the one I have seems in remarkable condition. There are a couple of weld patches and some holes, but these can be sorted pretty easily. A couple of hours with a paint scraper, wire brush and some elbow grease made things look much better.
I also cleaned and assembled the steering arms and painted them with black waxoil. The look really good, so my hope is that I can get the rest of the items to look the same. I'm resigned to the fact that the car will be off the road this week, but this gives me a chance to order a few new bolts to avoid using the old ones.
GSF car parts came through with the ball joints I was missing, so tonight there was good progress on the front disk brake conversion. I managed to get one side completely stripped and cleaned up most of the parts that will need to be refitted. I was carefull to measure the streering arms before stripping, so hopefully the tracking wont be too far out. I did notice some of the ball joints had split pins in them. Split pins were generally replaced with nyloc nuts by the 1980's so I suspect that some of these ball joints are really quite old. I also found a piece of bar that I turned down about 20 years ago to push out the ball joints on my old beetle. It was a little rusty as you might expect, but should make the pressing out of the ball joints much easier.
Last night I carried out an inspection of the front suspension to establish what was needed for the front disk brake conversion. After the car was jacked in the air I found the ball joints to be in very bad condition and also one of the hubs was a little loose on its bearings. This is clearly the reason why the steering is a little vauge and was an advisory notice on the last MOT. In truth this should have been an MOT failure. At lunch time today I visited GSF car parts in Thurrock and purchased a complete set of ball joints, track rod ends, and a steering damper. GSF were a few items short which they have promised me for tomorrow. Armed with these parts and hopefully a friend who has a fly press I should be able to do a complete job on the front and make everything much better. Tonight I took out the petrol tank...as usual I always seem to do these jobs when the tank is almost full! This should make the task much easier as you can get to all the steering joints from above. I had a good look at the chassis front and it appears in very good condition. I think someone has done a little work here in the not too distant past, so I wire brushed everything I could and sprayed it with WD-40 ready for the weekend.
A few hours work tonight saw the installation of the drivers seat. This means the car is now back on the road. I will need to remove the seats again to paint the legs and add some additional bracing, but I'll drive the car for a while to see what bracing if any is needed. The reversing light has been wired and is now working. I haven't fitted the warning buzzer yet, but its OK for now. I want to fit all the parts I have in the garage as soon as possible to clear space ready for winter. The next big job is fitting the front disk brake conversion. I have also been doing some research into heater channel replacement and using 80mm x 80mm box section rather than stock VW heater channels.
The weekend gave me the opportunity to install one of the Ford Fiesta seats. I wanted to have the seat slightly lower than standard, but this was not possible as the seat rails were too wide. I cut and welded some seat pillars complete with internal M10 nuts and modified the rails to suit. The original floor mount was removed and the new seat bolted in position. This took the best part of 2 days to work out, but the second seat was prepared in a few hours. Hopefully I can fit the seat in the next few days as having the seats out makes the car undriveable, something I really want to avoid if possible.
The reversing light bracket is now installed and some work on running the wires through to the front of the car has been completed. I want to install a second fuse box but the light was fading and I was unable to complete the work.
I have continued to work on installing the seat and have now decided to make some seat pillars which will mount off the floor and be welded to the seat rails. This will raise the seat to the correct height and bring it above the heater channel to give enough width for fitting. The first pillar has been cut and welded up, complete with a captive M10 nut inside. Only another seven to make! My welding is very poor but I have been watching youtube and reading up on technique over the last few weeks and tonight my welds have improved a great deal. I hope to get good enough to attempt heater channel replacement next year prior to the MOT, so these little welding projects are good practice.
There has been a little more progress on the seat installation with the dismantling of the new seat runners and a little grinding and hammering to remove the brackets which are too wide to fit between the centre tunnel and heater channels. It seems that the seat will need spacing up an inch or so to be in the correct position. I spotted some steel box section in B&Q which looks about right for the job, but is very expensive. I really should order some steel online as I have all but run out of my supply and its about a 1/10th of the price of the DIY shops!
In tried to fit the reversing light bracket but found that I was unable to get to the bolts easily. I modified the bracket and repainted it. There will be a second attempt tomorrow.
I have been busy on several areas of the car over the last few days. First is that I won some new seats on eBay for £60. These were from a MK6 Ford Fiesta and are exactly the same as the ones in my other daily driver. They look as new, unfortunately I didn't notice they were from a 4 door car and as a consequence they dont tilt forward. A small point as I don't have a rear seat, but it would have been nice to get in the back more easily. I tried tonight to fit them in. Removal of the existing seats was quite simple, but the new seat rails are a tight fit and will need modifying slightly. A little progress was made and I think it shouldn't be too hard to do a nice installation.
The electrical parts for the reversing light have arrived and the mounting bracket is complete and painted. It fastens to the boot lid hinge mountings so removes the need for drilling the body.
New rear wheel bolts have been fitted to replace the ones that were shortened. They are much better items with nice machined taper seats.
The new 15" Mountney steering wheel has also been fitted. This is a replacement for the 13" one which was too small for steering large off road wheels. I took the time to install it with stainless steel button head bolts to give it some extra bling!
Little progress on the buggy today, but I have put my mercedes up for sale and also some alloy wheels I had lying around. I did manage to remove the roof light bar with the 4 non functional lights and seal some grommets in the holes. Whilst doing so it occured to me that one of these would make a good reversing light as my village has no street lights and reversing out of my drive is quite hard when I cannot see behind. I did some investigation and it seems that one of the rectangular lights would fit quite nicely above the engine and be somewhat hidden from view. I have ordered a "lights on" buzzer and made a start on the bracket. I probably have a switch and some wire lying around in the garage.
I spent most of today driving to and from Bristol to pick up some baja wheels I won on ebay. They are rare 5 spoke 4 stud so it was worth the extra effort of driving 370 miles to pick them up. I only really want a pair for the front, but the others may be fitted later if ever I go for a disk brake rear setup and want to switch to 4 stud wheels. They are white in colour, so will take some time to sand and spray but look in good condition. I consider the price of £101 a bargain as they are now unavailable as far as I can tell in either the UK or USA. First job though is to get the disk brake conversion fitted to the front and have a look at the torsion bars and steering. I have driven the bug a little more and there still seems to be a slight vibration from the wheels under braking. I'm not sure whether this is because of the shortened wheel bolts not being exactly the same length or out of balance wheels. I'll probably get the wheels balanced anyway and I have ordered some more bolts cut to the correct length.
My V5C document finally arrived today from the DVLA! This only took a few months and one re request before there was a response.
I worked a little on the rear wheel spacers today and found that on the back left wheel the bolts fouled slightly on something inside the brake mechanism. I took all the bolts off and shortened them with grinder / cut off wheel to around 45mm in length and repeated this on the other side just to make sure. The wheel vibration seems to now be cured and the car feels as it should. Due to the extended length of the bolts I will keep an eye on the bolt torques for a few weeks to make sure they don't come loose. The inner wheel arch clearance is now very good. I also dropped the tyre pressures a little to 25psi which is around the standard beetle pressures and this seemed to soften the ride and as you can see in the pictures doesn't appear to be under inflated.
Other news is that I won the eBay auction for some 5 spoke 15" rims. This will mean that I can get some larger tyres for the front.
The 1" wheel spacers arrived today and I fitted them on this evening. The look really cool, but when I went for a drive there was a strange noise at the back and slight wheel wobble when braking. I either tightened the wheel nuts up unevenly or the bolts are too long and foul the brake hub internals. There was no time to do investigation as the light was fading, so I'll reinvestigate tomorrow. Hmm just got rid of one annoying ticking and created another... not good. I have been looking for a better set of wheels. I have been let down by an annoying eBayer on one set, but have a bid on some more. Hopefully I can get some 5 spoke 15" rims on the front in the not too distant future.
Today I ordered a 15" Mountney steering wheel to replace the 13" one fitted to the buggy. This should help to reduce the force required to steer at low speeds and also look a little better as I have ordered a black one (The current one is grey). I also placed an order for some 1" wheel spacers and bolts for the rear wheels. This should eliminate the wheel rubbing at the rear of the vehicle and help fill the arches out a little. This was the cheapest option as I cannot really justify IRS suspension at the moment with so many other things that need doing.
05/09/2010 Mileage 43234
During the visit the Santa Pod yesterday I bought a few items for the Buggy. These include some wheel castle nuts, an old manual, and also a solid state voltage regulator. The last item was new but only cost £5. Bubba has had an annoying ticking sound from under the back seat and this is usually an indication that the voltage regulator is on its last legs, so today I swapped it for a later solid state type and at the same time removed the back seat. The radio I fitted also seems to have stopped working. I did some voltage checks an the unit is getting power and the fuse is OK, but appears dead. Its no problem really as I couldn't hear the radio anyhow!
Today saw an outing to VW action at Santa Pod. I finally managed to see some of the other baja bugs that I have only before seen on the internet. I think this has changed my direction a little with some of the modifications I want to do to the car. For example I think I am going to remove the back seat and maybe fit a roll cage. Also it appears that my rear tyres are used on several cars, but some have wheel spacers fitted, others have reduction boxes and some have Independant Rear Suspension (IRS) conversions. All food for thought.
Work has been a little slow lately on the bug, but it has been used regularly at weekends. This included a shopping trip to Milton Keynes, a round trip of around 60 miles, so the confidence is building at a steady pace. I think a trip to work may happen this week, this is a round trip of 170 miles into London so this is not to be underestimated as a step into the unknown. The car also seems to have aquired the name "Bubba". My better half has named it this as she says it goes "Bubba Bubba Bubba" as it goes along. I haven't the heart to tell her that this is how all beetles sound! Painting is underway on the disk brake conversion so this should be fitted quite soon.
I am continuing to use the bug as much as I can an today went for a long drive to Stondon Car Museum. There were many cars there from all eras, but not one beetle! The bug didn't cause any problems on the drive and now my confidence is rising I am really starting to enjoy the car. There are a few knocks from the rear suspension which need further investigation. Perhaps the shock absorbers may be bottoming. I have also taken delivery of a disk brake conversion kit for the front end. The garage is now tidy ready to recieve the car should the weather turn inclement.
After several days of paint stripping , sanding and repainting, the Thunderbird Quiet Pack Exhaust was ready for installation. Removal of the old exhaust went very easily as I don't think it has been installed that long. The new exhaust was a touching fit behind the rear nudge bar, but fitting went OK. The exhaust is quieter but not as quiet as I was expecting. The Por15 paint has also started to peel in a few places, but this may be just bad preparation of the surface. I shall sand and repaint it soon. Unfortunately I managed to dent the tailpipe whilst installing....never mind nothing is perfect. I also noticed the j tubes are very close to the Empi rocker cover rubber gaskets, so I shall have to keep an eye on those to see if there is any problems. I am not sure I like the rear nudge bar as it is very weak and doesn't do much for the appearance. I may remove It and relocate the number plate up higher.
This weekend saw the installation of the Petronix ignition system which replaced the distributor points. It was fitted without too much problems, but after a short drive the car would not start again. After a little investigation this was traced to a broken wire on the starter motor. I replaced the wire and tie wrapped it to make it more secure. Whilst under the car I took the time to tidy up the routing for the fuel pipe and installed some good clipping points and abrasion protection. This evening I went out for a rather longer drive to gain some confidence. The engine feels much more reliable now. I'll use it at every opportunity I can over the next few weeks to see what falls off!
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